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The Brain Death Controversy
The Brain Death Controversy

Volume 3 , Issue 3

When we interviewed Rabbi J. David Bleich (Halakha, Brain Death, and Organ Donation, The Jewish Review, Vol. 3, No. 2) we didn't anticipate our pages becoming a vehicle through which the controversy over this very important issue would find its expression. While we like to think of The Jewish Review as a literate, intellectual publication, we are not a halakhic journal, and the detailed legal analysis of this complicated problem is, in a certain respect, beyond the scope of what we had originally intended in presenting the interview with Rabbi Bleich. Nevertheless, we do feel that several important purposes will be served by presenting our readers with Rabbi Moshe Dovid Tendler's statement on "brain death," which appears in this issue. Many of our readers, upon reading the interview with Rabbi Bleich, advised us of their interest in hearing the "other side" of this debate, some even suggesting that we had both a Jewish and journalistic obligation to present that other point of view on our pages.

We believe that Rabbi Tendler's essay and the aforementioned interview with Rabbi Bleich each provides a unique window into the response of Jewish law to the moral and social dilemmas created by advances in medical technology. We have found the medical and halakhic issues involved in the brain death controversy to be nothing short of intellectually arresting, and our sojourn into the world of this debate has provided us with a new respect and appreciation for the sophistication and sensitivity of the halakhic process and of the courage of those who engage in it. We trust that our readers will feel the same.

Finally, we should note that a rejoinder to Rabbi Tendler's essay written by Rabbi Bleich is in preparation and is currently scheduled to appear in the next issue of The Jewish Review. We will continue to publish articles on important issues in medical ethics in the spirit of both shalom and emet, peace and truth, in the hope that these, as well as other, poskim who have made contributions in this area will move towards a resolution of what are some of the most significant moral dilemmas of our time.

In the meantime, the brain death controversy underlines a very important principle that is sometimes ignored: that it is vitally important for each individual, each family, to be guided in times of both illness and health by a personal "rav," by a rabbi who is both familiar with Jewish law and sensitive to the needs of the individuals he serves. Only through an ongoing relationship with such a rav can an individual observant Jew be confident in the decisions he or she may be called upon to make with respect to matters of such ethical moment.



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